Books by Walter Mosley

WALTER MOSLEY is the author of the bestsellers Bad Boy Brawly Brown, and Fear Itself; the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries; and other works of fiction and non-fiction. He is the recipient of a Grammy Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and man

Released: Sept. 3, 2019

"A concise work that aspiring writers will find useful."
The prolific creator of Easy Rawlins provides guidance and tough-minded encouragement to writers at any stage of development. Read full book review >
JOHN WOMAN by Walter Mosley
Released: Sept. 4, 2018

"Somehow, it makes sense that when Walter Mosley puts forth a novel of ideas, it arrives with the unexpected force of a left hook and the metallic gleam of a new firearm."
The versatile, justly celebrated creator of Easy Rawlins, Leonid McGill, and other iconic crime solvers raises the stakes with this tightly wound combination of psychological suspense and philosophic inquiry. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 20, 2018

"It's getting to be a bigger blues band on Mosley's stage, with Joe King Oliver now sitting in with Easy Rawlins and Leonid McGill. But as long as it sounds sweet and smoky, let the good times roll."
Mosley (Charcoal Joe, 2016, etc.) begins what looks to be a new series with a protagonist whose territory covers New York City's outer boroughs—and, yes, that means Staten Island, too. Read full book review >
CHARCOAL JOE by Walter Mosley
Released: June 14, 2016

"Less cluttered than Rose Gold (2014), though that's not saying much. But then you don't read Mosley for the throughline but for his matchless ability to present mosaic worlds in which even the most minor characters arrive burning with their own unquenchable stories."
Fasten your seat belts. It's time for another simmering tour of Los Angeles, this time in 1968, with Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins serving once more as the unwilling guide. Read full book review >
INSIDE A SILVER BOX by Walter Mosley
Released: Jan. 27, 2015

"Food for thought, if not entirely digestible."
After an African-American thug murders a white graduate student jogging in Central Park, the two team up to combat an alien menace in Mosley's (Rose Gold, 2014, etc.) latest science-fiction effort.Read full book review >
ROSE GOLD by Walter Mosley
Released: Sept. 23, 2014

"Along the way to the untidy resolution, the most quotable of all contemporary detectives ('I knew I was in trouble because I was being told a fairy tale by a cop') stirs up enough trouble for scene after memorable scene. Mosley may not write great endings, but it's hard to top his middles."
Easy Rawlins, who once spanned years between volumes, takes his third case of 1967. Or rather, his third batch of cases. Read full book review >
Released: May 13, 2014

"A well-told redemption song about the most unlikely of heroines."
A porn star experiences an epiphany of sorts in the wake of her husband's death. Read full book review >
LITTLE GREEN by Walter Mosley
Released: May 14, 2013

"Whether it's the lingering effects of his near-fatal accident or the infusions of Gator's Blood, Easy sounds less like Watts' signature private eye than one of the visionaries from Mosley's Crosstown to Oblivion novellas (Stepping Stone/The Love Machine, 2013, etc.)."
The 1967 Watts riots seem to have slowed down time for Easy Rawlins, who returns only a few weeks after his apparent death at the end of Blonde Faith (2007). Read full book review >
Released: April 2, 2013

"Mosley, whose mystery novels (All I Did Was Shoot My Man, 2012, etc.) have won deserved acclaim, is here at his most declamatory, essayistic and oracular."
The creator of Easy Rawlins, whose ambition keeps sending him back to apocalyptic sci-fi scenarios with decidedly mixed results (The Wave, 2006, etc.), presents a pair of visionary novellas mainly designed to provide their characters with occasions to hector each other and the gentle reader with speechifying. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 2, 2012

"For thoughtful readers, the questions posed by the book are well worth pondering."
Two more novellas in one volume, continuing Mosley's Crosstown to Oblivion series (The Gift Of Fire / On The Head Of A Pin, 2012), the common theme being, "a black man destroys the world." Read full book review >
Released: May 8, 2012

"Ingenious and mystical, although readers familiar with fantasy and science fiction will find little new or provocative here. Fans of Mosley's gumshoe noir books (or Blue Light, 1998, his earlier foray into the domain) will certainly wish to investigate."
Moving far from the milieu of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 1997, etc.), Mosley offers two novellas in one volume, part of a series entitled Crosstown to Oblivion, the common theme being, "a black man destroys the world." Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 24, 2012

"Overplotted even by Mosley's standards, with precious little chance to savor each scene and speaker before they're hustled offstage to make room for the next."
The release of a convicted killer who doesn't happen to be a thief offers another crack at redemption for impossibly compromised New York private eye Leonid McGill (When the Thrill Is Gone, 2011, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2011

"The author's heart is in the right place, but it's tough to rally the masses when your message seems more likely to appeal to the fringe."
Bestselling novelist Mosley (The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, 2010) offers disenchanted denizens of the 21st century a screed-like guide to casting off the oppressive shackles of modern society. Read full book review >
Released: March 8, 2011

"A book filled with sharp individual scenes and hard-headed aphorisms."
A client who isn't a client sends private eye Leonid McGill (Known to Evil, 2010, etc.) on his latest whirligig tour of New York's dark side. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 11, 2010

"Borrowing from Faust, the Iliad and Gran Torino, Mosley (Known to Evil, 2010, etc.) unforgettably transforms Ptolemy's cacophony of memories into a powerful symphony that makes him 'into many men from out of all the lives he had lived through the decades.'"
An ancient man living in solitary squalor in Los Angeles is offered an experimental medicine that just might beat back his creeping dementia—and will almost certainly kill him in the process. Read full book review >
KNOWN TO EVIL by Walter Mosley
Released: March 23, 2010

"A rich collection of individual scenes and people as memorable as the tangled plot is forgettable."
An offer he can't refuse leads Leonid McGill (The Long Fall, 2009, etc.) on a grim tour that takes him from New York's executive suites to its lowest dives. Read full book review >
THE LONG FALL by Walter Mosley
Released: March 24, 2009

"Plotting has never been Mosley's strong point, but McGill, a red-diaper baby, ex-boxer and a man eternally at war with himself, may be his most compelling hero yet."
The creator of Easy Rawlins, Socrates Fortlow and Fearless Jones introduces a new detective struggling to live down his checkered past in present-day New York. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 13, 2008

Ex-con Socrates Fortlow, the conscience of South Central Los Angeles (Walkin' the Dog, 1999, etc.), returns for another dozen interlinked adventures, most of them revolving around dialogues on tough or taboo subjects. Read full book review >
THE TEMPEST TALES by Walter Mosley
Released: May 1, 2008

"A classic case of overreaching, though one that's often moving and provoking."
Versatile Mosley tells the story of a black man dead before his time who shakes up the divine order by refusing his condemnation to Hell. Read full book review >
DIABLERIE by Walter Mosley
Released: Jan. 8, 2008

"Provocative, haunting, satisfyingly inconclusive work from a storyteller of formidable gifts and boundless ambition."
A disturbing chance encounter jolts a New York computer programmer out of his affectless routine and into the turbulent what-next zone in which Mosley's heroes from Easy Rawlins to Fearless Jones have always thrived. Read full book review >
BLONDE FAITH by Walter Mosley
Released: Oct. 10, 2007

"Familiar territory for both Mosley (Killing Johnny Fry, 2007, etc.) and Easy, who sounds a lot more ancient than his 47 years."
Easy Rawlins's 10th case (Cinnamon Kiss, 2005, etc.), set in 1967, is a tale of three missing men, each with a personal connection to Watts's definitive private eye. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2007

"An interesting look at a male in midlife crisis. As L says, 'I had come alive. And life hurt.'"
And now for something completely different from Easy Rawlins' prolific creator (Cinnamon Kiss, 2005, etc.), who's branching out into still another genre. Read full book review >
FEAR OF THE DARK by Walter Mosley
Released: Sept. 19, 2006

"Luckily, the clouds obscuring the labyrinthine plot frequently lift to reveal the clarity of Paris's wisdom, as when he observes that kindly Fearless constantly fights only because 'we were poor and we were black and so we either fought or we lost ground.'"
Watts, 1956. Time for another 15 rounds of unsought violence for bookseller Paris Minton and his friend Fearless Jones. Read full book review >
FORTUNATE SON by Walter Mosley
Released: April 10, 2006

"Though he doesn't duplicate the austere power of The Man in My Basement (2004), Mosley makes his simple tale gripping through the studied artlessness of his storytelling."
Mosley's latest departure from his Easy Rawlins mysteries (Cinnamon Kiss, 2005, etc.) is a parable about the ineffable bond between two boys—one white, one black—raised as brothers. Read full book review >
THE WAVE by Walter Mosley
Released: Jan. 3, 2006

"Even so, Mosley's third foray into sci-fi (Futureland, 2001, etc.) is as provocative and deeply felt as ever, right down to the enigmatic ending."
The apparent resurrection of his dead father is only the beginning of an unemployed system administrator's fantastic confrontation with forces that could change the destiny of the planet. Read full book review >
CINNAMON KISS by Walter Mosley
Released: Sept. 19, 2005

"Lacks the searing intensity of Little Scarlet (2004), but still as rich and tightly wound as you'd expect from Mosley. "
1966. Watts has stopped burning, but it's no safer for Easy Rawlins, on the trail of some mysterious documents that leave death in their wake. Read full book review >
47 by Walter Mosley
Released: May 4, 2005

Forty-seven is the name and number of a 14-year-old slave working on Master Tobias's Georgia plantation in 1832. Forty-seven is also the narrator of Mosley's young-adult literature debut, still alive almost two centuries later to tell of his fated encounter with 3,000-year-old Tall John from "beyond Africa," who has arrived in a Sun Ship from planet Elle (where red and purple forests are populated by tiny, multi-colored men and women) in the guise of a young runaway slave. This boldly unusual blend of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy has some powerful moments, such as when 47 is brutally branded by a sadistic fellow slave; and many heroic moments, such as when 47 and Tall John battle evil forces to keep them from mining the Earth's green powder and destroying the planet. Mostly, however, this is a flawed, didactic exploration of the nature of freedom, juxtaposing the brutality of 19th-century American slavery with the society of a faraway planet where skin color is irrelevant because "behind all existence there is one great mind." (Fiction. 12-16)Read full book review >
LITTLE SCARLET by Walter Mosley
Released: July 5, 2004

"The real strength of Easy's narrative, though, is his unflinching recognition that in working with the police, he's crossing the same border that's driven his brothers and sisters to violence."
Easy Rawlins sizzles as Watts burns. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 5, 2004

In Mosley's boldly understated fable, an unemployed African-American agrees to rent space in his basement to a wealthy white businessman for two months. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 10, 2003

"Not bad, but far from the best—and not even the best anthology to have appeared this year."
The latest BASS, while full of talent, is ultimately an echo of successes past. Read full book review >
FEAR ITSELF by Walter Mosley
Released: July 2, 2003

"Paris (Fearless Jones, 2001) ends by wrapping up a mystery with perhaps a dozen too many tangles, accepting himself as a killer, and guaranteeing that no matter how well he succeeds in his errands to the powerful and fearsome, he'll never get rich."
Inoffensive bookseller Paris Minton's friend Fearless Jones drags him from the safety of his shop into more trouble—big, big trouble—in 1955 Watts. Read full book review >
SIX EASY PIECES by Walter Mosley
Released: Jan. 1, 2003

"Despite the repetition, readers who missed these meaty, powerful stories in their paperback debuts will gobble them up at one sitting."
Even though six of the seven color-coded stories here have already appeared as pendants to recent paperback reprints of Mosley's first six Easy Rawlins novels, it's a special pleasure to have them all gathered together with the brand-new "Amber Gate," whose inquiry into the murder of much-loved prostitute Jackie Jay makes it the closest thing to a whodunit Mosley (Bad Boy Brawly Brown, p. 709, etc.) has yet produced. True, the tales, covering a few months in Watts in 1964, revisit much the same territory over and over: Easy's asked by a trusting friend to find some missing relative or clear an acquaintance suspected of some crime, descends into a demi-criminal underworld, triggers an outburst of cathartic violence, and then goes back to his job as janitorial supervisor at Sojourner Truth Junior High. By bundling them together, however, Mosley strengthens the links among them: Easy's struggle to find dignity in his work and provide a role model for his two children and his quiet jealousy when his stewardess lover Bonnie Shay is romanced by the activist son of a Senegalese chief. In "Smoke," the first and best of the stories, Easy tries masquerading as his friend Raymond "Mouse" Alexander, presumed but not proved dead, to get to the bottom of a fire at Sojourner Truth, but has to face the fact that he's hamstrung by his un-Mouselike reluctance to hurt and kill. As Easy's alter ego, Mouse continues to haunt the others as well. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2002

In a rare slowing of his usual leaps forward in time, Mosley, who's chronicled the adventures of reluctant Watts detective Ezekiel Rawlins from 1948 (Devil in a Blue Dress, 1990) to 1963 (A Little Yellow Dog, 1996), edges forward only three months to tell the story of Easy's search for Brawly Brown, the hulking young man who ran away from his mother, Alva Torres, smack into trouble. He's been drawn into the Urban Revolutionary Party, a black-power group that advocates either cultural unity (according to URP director Xavier Bodan and secretary Tina Montes) or armed insurrection (according to LAPD Detective Vincent Knorr, one of the D-squad stalwarts charged with bringing the party down). Even before he meets these antagonists, however, Easy's already followed Brawly into trouble when his visit to Alva's cousin, Isolda Moore, leaves him standing over the cooling corpse of Brawly's father, lying dead in Isolda's doorway. The evidence, of course, points to the son who'd threatened his old man. But Mosley uses this central conflict to focus a whole seething world of trouble, from Easy's guilt over the death of his fearless, violent friend Mouse to his heroic efforts to keep his family together to his eternal battles with the cops who are railroading him once more. Read full book review >
FUTURELAND by Walter Mosley
Released: Nov. 12, 2001

"A vivid, exciting and, on the whole, well-executed take on cyberpunk that measures up to the work done 15 years ago by the Gibson and Bruce Sterling—but will Mosley's mystery fans go for them?"
Nine linked stories that continue Mosley's foray into science fiction that began in Blue Light (1998). Mystery fans eager for another outing with Easy Rawlins or Socrates Fortlow can find a version of Mosley's brand of socially stigmatized, African-American crime-solver in New York private detective Folio Johnson, a former bodyguard who nearly died saving his employer, the megalomaniacal MacroSoft Corp. head Dr. Ivan Kismet (owner of the world's richest, biggest corporation and head of a new religion that posits that God can be reached directly through technology), and was thus blessed by Dr. Kismet with a mechanical eye that can scan DNA and a chunk of computerized circuitry in his brain that links him with the Internet and every communications system in the dark, gritty, overwired, debauched mid-21st century. "Electric Eye," the central story here, comes close to being a cyberpunk parody of the hard-boiled genre, in which its tired clichés-winning a fallen woman's love, waking up next to a freshly murdered corpse, etc.-are given a futuristic gloss. As cyberpunk godfather William Gibson did in Count Zero and Burning Chrome, Mosley uses stylish characters and technobabble to navigate an intricate, grimy, technologically baroque urban landscape where the struggles of exploited, marginalized, unusually gifted individuals, most of whom are racial, technological, or genetic hybrids like Folio, make significant—if occasionally unintended—changes in the repressive, vindictive, cruelly depersonalized world around them. Read full book review >
FEARLESS JONES by Walter Mosley
Released: June 5, 2001

Even before sultry Elana Love walks into mild-mannered Paris Minton's life three months after his Watts bookstore opens, Mosley can't resist his signature scene: A pair of cops stroll into the shop determined to push Paris around just because he's a black man and it's 1954. But the trouble they spell is slow-burning compared to Elana's entrance a month later, when her search for Rev. William Grove, late head of the neighboring Messenger of the Divine flock, is interrupted by Leon Douglas, the violent ex-con determined to get his hands on the 10,000-franc bond his ex-cellmate, embezzler Sol Tannenbaum, left in Elana's custody to pay for his protection in the big house. In a whirlwind opening movement that ranks as Mosley's most accomplished, Leon chases Elana and Paris en route to Sol's; Elana beds Paris and leaves him high and dry in Venice Beach; Paris returns to find his bookstore burned to the ground; and Sol becomes the first of a dozen casualties. Fight fire with fire, thinks Paris, and promptly bails out his own secret weapon, Fearless Jones, who goes up against assorted thieves, killers, crooked cops, and Nazi swindlers with a ferocity that soon communicates itself to his inoffensive friend. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

" Even when his rhetoric is trite, however, Mosley is always engaged and engaging."
An eloquent if clichéd essay on black and white Americans' slavery to the economy. Read full book review >
WALKIN' THE DOG by Walter Mosley
Released: Oct. 14, 1999

Mosley's probing and stirring follow-up to Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (1997) presents a dozen further adventures of Socrates Fortlow, the ex-con struggling to protect his marginal, yet deeply rooted, life in blasted Watts. Despite their resolute refusal of melodrama, "adventures" is the word for these episodes, because Socrates is so far from the American dream of upward mobility that he never changes anything in his life—moving up to a new job as produce manager at the Bounty Market, moving out of his rent-free alley squat to a proper home—unless he feels he has to. It's an adventure for Socrates to plant a tree and sleep with a woman in memory of a jailhouse friend, or to follow the sound of a sad jazz horn to its source, or to invite the Wednesday night discussion group that usually meets at Topper Saint-Paul's funeral home to his house and tell them the story of a slave revolt in long-ago Louisiana. Once he's laid down the rhythms of Socrates's life in a spare prose that makes it clear what a gift it is to be "safe at least for one night more," Mosley describes his hero's run-ins with criminals and the law in the same matter-of-fact way, shorn of the self-seriousness that sank his sci-fi thriller Blue Light (1998). Socrates kills a mugger and waits for the police to come and get him; even though they've been all over him for every crime in the neighborhood for months, they leave him unsettlingly alone. The casual reminiscences of another ex-con shake him so deeply that he disconnects his newly installed phone and gets an unlisted number. Finally, he goes up against a killer cop in a climactic story that shapes the series more firmly than Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned without going for easy answers or easy sentiment. Delicately balancing the demands of individual stories and the whole cycle, Mosley uses his perpetually angry, sensitive hero to show that "bravery ain't no big thing . . . . It's love that gives life." Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1999

Fortunately, only a few of the writers in this otherwise fine collection of essays pay attention to the self-important title they are asked to labor under, before going off on their own riffs. George Curry, of Emerge magazine, does a serviceable job with the difficult topic of the new technology and its application to blacks. Former US surgeon general Joycelyn Elders comes off as polished, knowledgeable, and acutely aware of the mental and physical state of black America. Spike Lee is Spike Lee, and the same might be said of Stanley Crouch, except here Crouch, praised most often for his ad hominem truculence, appears witty and perhaps even wise addressing an assortment of subjects from the bad manners of some rap singers to the grace and wisdom of Ralph Ellison. Others of the 13 in this collection who shine include Randall Robinson on foreign affairs and Walter Mosley, who continues to demonstrate with each new publication that there is more to him than Easy Rawlins mysteries. Having said that, it should also be pointed out that the whole notion of putting these very different writers and thinkers together under one roof was conceived by Mosley and sponsored by New York University (where his co-editors, Manthia Diawara and Clyde Taylor, teach in the African Studies Program). Mosley, who also wrote the introduction, says, the idea behind it was "to present the stories of women and men who had made it in spite of the system, those who had transcended the limitations of blind faith while at the same time refusing to accept the cynicism of racc." Whatever. Some of the writers themselves have difficulty with the expressed purpose of the title but don't bother to wrestle with it; they just say what they have to say. Mostly a good showing by one and all. Read full book review >
BLUE LIGHT by Walter Mosley
Released: Nov. 2, 1998

Mosley leaves the Watts of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 1997) far behind in this extravagant futuristic fantasy of a lucky few San Francisco natives transformed virtually into a new species by rays of unearthly blue light. When the astral visitation comes, it turns elderly housewife Eileen Martel into a tower of strength, Berkeley dropout Orde, a.k.a. William T. Portman, into a millennial prophet, spouse-swapper Claudia Zimmerman into a love goddess, and Claudia's dog Max into a being far wiser and nobler than any human. Even marauding biker Winch Fargo, who caught only the very end of the light show, and Lester Foote, a.k.a. Chance, a half-white, half-black Bay Area historian whose blood is mingled with OrdÇ's, receive breathtaking new powers. If Mosley's premise sounds like the John Travolta film Phenomenon writ large, however, it's both darkened and broadened by the shadow of the impending battle between the Blues and their nemesis, Gray Redstar, ne Horace LaFontaine, a hideous hybrid of blue strength and death's fury. Once the Blues, joined by such demi-Blues as Folsom Prison warden Gerin Reed and Orde's miraculously gifted daughter Alacrity, retreat into the surrounding woods and, ringed round by killer butterflies and sentient redwoods touched by the light, give themselves over to spiritual and carnal love, Mosley's fantasy develops distinct superhero overtones ("Alacrity was the greatest warrior in the history of the world. She was bold and kindhearted, savage and ruthless"). At the same time, the story, already heavily burdened with Chance's oracular meditations on history, racial difference, and the intertwining of violence and love, begins to drag, as months turns into Grayless years, and to stagger under the weight of its apocalyptic premise, whose every manifestation demands a new set of superlatives. The finale is likely to leave readers as unsatisfied as Chance. The result is an ambitious mess, inventive and visionary as Mosley's greatest admirers might wish, but torn between windy prophecy and comic-book heroics. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

Mosley takes a break from his peerless Easy Rawlins series (Gone Fishin', 1997, etc.) for a cycle of non-mystery stories set in the same violent neighborhood of Watts. Like Easy, Socrates Fortlow has lived a long time with the dark side of life and himself. Thirty-five years ago, Socrates, addled with drink and lust, raped and killed a pair of acquaintances. Now, eight years after his endless prison sentence, he's living in a two-room apartment little better than his cell, and he still watches his back, avoids the Man, and assigns himself a grade at the end of every day. "Once you go to prison you belong there," he says of the brutalizing effect his term worked on him. But no matter how hard he tries, Socrates can't turn his back on life. A walk on the beach stirs memories and desires he'd rather not face; a tense face-off with a neighborhood adulterer awakens both his sharpest censure and his sharpest self-criticism. And he's not just a survivor; amid the allures of the flesh and the fear and anger he feels about being a black American, his life also lurches forward. He pushes the staff of the Bounty Supermarket to hire him as a grocery boxer; he takes in Darryl, a boy he can tell killed somebody else, too; he gets together with a WW II vet to expel a crack dealer from the neighborhood; he wrestles manfully with the question of whether he should rat a homicidal firebug out to the hated police. Whether he's remembering the bookstore intellectuals he used to hang around with or teaching Darryl to stand up to a gangbanger, Socrates constantly judges himself. As he writes to an old girlfriend: "I don't get into trouble even when it's not my fault." The elemental recurrence of fear and lust and rage are right out of Easy Rawlins, even if Socrates' story exhibits rather than extends Mosley's range. Read full book review >
GONE FISHIN' by Walter Mosley
Released: Jan. 1, 1997

Fans of Easy Rawlins who worry that he's been growing old too fast—Mosley's five novels from Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) to A Little Yellow Dog (p. 565) have carried him from 1948 to 1963—will be happy to have this prequel set in 1939, a slender coming-of-age story that takes Easy and his violent friend Raymond (Mouse) Alexander from their boyhood home in Houston's Fifth Ward to the aptly named town of Pariah, where Mouse plans to squeeze money out of his stepfather, Reese Corn, to underwrite his marriage to his sweetheart EttaMae. Easy, scared that Mouse will find out about the company he's been keeping with EttaMae, agrees to drive the car Mouse has swindled for the trip, and the two of them set off into a landscape dotted with hapless hitchhikers and seductive voodoo queens, hard men, willing women, and hellfire preachers—most with unforgettable stories to tell. By the time Easy heads back for Houston, Mouse will have gotten his money, Easy will have lost whatever innocence he had in "my real war" before the white man's war of 1941, and Mosley's vast audience will have learned that "life was so hard that we were too tired from just living to lend a hand." No mystery, but a densely imagined prologue that goes a long way toward explaining why Easy spends so much of his adult life hamstrung by his deepest loyalties, as if every friendship were a life sentence. Read full book review >
A LITTLE YELLOW DOG by Walter Mosley
Released: July 1, 1996

Easy Rawlins has been working for two years as a supervising custodian in Sojourner Truth Junior High School when he finds alluring math teacher Idabell Turner in her classroom much too early one morning for anything but trouble. Armed only with a wild story about how her husband, Holland Gasteau, has threatened to kill her dog, she's got Easy (Black Betty, 1994, etc.) in her arms within minutes, and his carefully constructed life in a shambles. By the end of the day, the Watts police will discover the corpses of both Holland and his twin brother Roman, and they'll be measuring Easy, who's already been accused of stealing from the school, for the rap. Instead of coming clean to the cops about his involvement with Ida, Easy—who knows that the crooked ways he got his job and adopted his children, Jesus and Feather, won't stand up to official scrutiny—decides to go back to the streets he had hoped he'd left behind. Knowing that most of any investigation will be under the table to start with—"You had to kill somebody white to get any kind of news splash in the sixties," he reflects—Easy, backed up by his unusually subdued gangster buddy Mouse, ties the Gasteaus into an elaborate drug-smuggling scheme, and also, by the end, into every unsolved crime of 1963. The fantastically intricate plot is only average for this celebrated series. But no living novelist beats Mosley's nervy sense of what thin ice the solidest-seeming characters build their lives upon, and how terrifying it is to feel the surface crack and shiver. Read full book review >
RL'S DREAM by Walter Mosley
Released: Aug. 7, 1995

Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries (Black Betty, 1994, etc.) always seemed to be moving away from tightly plotted whodunits toward his trademark high-energy riffs, and here he makes his move to the mainstream with a hazy, tender tale of a dying bluesman taken in by a hard-bitten urban survivalist. Kiki Waters, released from the hospital after taking the wrong side in a mugging, finds her downstairs neighbor being evicted for nonpayment. Anointing herself Soupspoon Wise's goddaughter, she installs him in her place, invites him into her bed (an offer he can easily refuse), and sets about hustling him an insurance card. In these early scenes Kiki comes across with the likable aplomb of a cartoon heroine, but she's battling monsters like nothing Supergirl ever faced: Soupspoon is riddled with cancer and haunted by scenes from a life eternally on the move. "Storyteller need somebody wanna hear what he got to tell," he announces to Kiki and, armed with a tape recorder, spills his fragmentary memories of the women he's slept with, the men he's seen killed, and his formative stint with legendary mentor Robert (RL) Johnson. Then, once he's in a groove, Soupspoon takes his act on the Manhattan streets one last time, hunting down Alfred Metsgar, a bass player he once worked with, and Mavis Spivey, his forgotten ex-wife—neither of whom is overjoyed to see him—to get their memories on tape. Meanwhile, Kiki has begun to dredge up her own suppressed recollections of an abusive father back in Arkansas and the nursemaid who rescued her. Even Randy, a storekeeper with the hots for Kiki, turns out to have a story of his own. As Soupspoon's delirium deepens, he and Kiki inevitably drift apart—though the final separation arrives with a bang—until their stories, magically cross-pollinated, find the separate endings they've been heading toward all along. About what you'd expect if Flannery O'Connor had had the time to expand "Judgment Day" to novel length: as dark and rich as the Easy Rawlins stories, but without the persistent lure of Easy's search for the truth. Read full book review >
BLACK BETTY by Walter Mosley
Released: June 1, 1994

It's 1961, and Easy Rawlins has lost most of what he had five years ago in White Butterfly (1992). Not only has his wife walked out with his daughter, but his real estate investments have left him broke, and he's moved out of his own building to a rental in West LA, where shamus Saul Lynx comes to ask him to find aging mantrap Elizabeth Eady, aka Black Betty. Easy goes looking for Betty's gambling brother Marion, but finds nothing more of him than a bloody molar and a fat check from imperious Sarah Clarice Cain, daughter of the late, rich, unlamented Albert Cain. Why is Sarah so desperate to find Betty, and how is her disappearance tied to the police investigation of Albert's death? While he's pondering these questions, Easy finds big problems on his own doorstep. His investment in Freedom's Plaza is jeopardized by a smooth supermarket king who doesn't care for African-American competition; and his homicidal friend Mouse, sprung from jail after five years for manslaughter, is determined to identify and kill the witness who sent him there. It's high time the Easy Rawlins saga was recognized for the remarkable achievement it is: a snapshot social history of the black experience in postwar LA. This latest installment, teeming with violence, bitterness, and compassion, is Mosley's finest work yet. Read full book review >
WHITE BUTTERFLY by Walter Mosley
Released: July 6, 1992

Watts sometime-detective Easy Rawlins (Devil in a Blue Dress, A Red Death) is married when Mosley picks up his tale in 1956, but he still hasn't settled down: He's never told his nurses'-aide wife Regina about the property he owns or how he spends his days, and the local law still leans on him for help when they're up against it. This time, a sex killer has taken a break from three low-profile snuffs of black women to murder UCLA cocci Robin Garnett, a.k.a. Cyndi Starr, the White Butterfly—a stripper who kept her scandalous public life very private—and the cops want answers they didn't care about before. Easy and his murderous friend Mouse drift through Morley's trademark bars, brothels, and Chinese laundries in LA. and S.F. in search of the police suspect, J. T. Saunders—but when the suspect is killed in a bar fight in front of his eyes, Easy smells a setup. As usual, plotting, setting, dialogue, and social comment are all as mannered as Raymond Chandler and—if the manner doesn't put you off—nearly as compelling. Read full book review >
A RED DEATH by Walter Mosley
Released: July 1, 1991

Watts, 1953. Easy Rawlins, fresh from his Edgar-nominated debut (Devil in a Blue Dress), reluctantly agrees to spy on Communist union-organizer Chaim Wenzler for Red-baiting FBI agent Darryl Craxton in order to get IRS agent Reginald Lawrence—hot on his trail for back taxes on his off-the-books apartment buildings—off his back. But nobody (as Easy knows all too well) ever gets off a black man's back; and long before Poinsettia Jackson, one of Easy's hard-case tenants, is found hanging from a strap in the apartment she's stopped paying for and before Chaim Wenzler's work leads Easy to the African Migration movement, the First African Church, and Reverend Towne and Tania Lee are shot in fiagrante delicto—inevitably to be followed by Wenzler himself—Easy realizes that the two federal men are playing him off against each other. Who pulled the trigger on Wenzler and the others? As in Devil in a Blue Dress, Mosley's plot is so tangled it hardly matters. But the laconic poetry of Easy's voice floats through a central situation much more original and compelling than before. This time Mosley earns the acclaim his first novel received. Read full book review >
DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS by Walter Mosley
Released: July 16, 1990

Raymond Chandler meets Richard Wright in this not-quite-successful first novel set in 1948 L.A. Here, low-key black detective Easy Rawlins, fired from his job at a defense plant, agrees to locate femme fatale Daphne Monet for white gangster DeWitt Albright—and of course Finds more than he bargained for. Although he's the hero of a detective novel, Easy is no detective: his preferred method of investigation is to circulate among his friends—bartender Joppy (who recommends him for the job), boxer-bouncer Junior Fornay, philosophical Odell Jones, sultry Coretta James, and unpredictably violent Raymond (Mouse) Alexander—mentioning Daphne until he links her to hijacker Frank (Knifehand) Green, and then looking for Green with a deal offered by Todd Carter, the strait-laced white banker Daphne ran out on. As Easy moves through his hazy, gritty postwar hell buying drinks and asking questions, the rest of the cast predictably begins to kill each other off and come after Easy, setting the stage for a climactic confrontation between Daphne and Easy—but Daphne's revelations aren't really worth the wait. Good dialogue and some tensely effective scenes—the air crackles whenever Easy goes up against a white man—don't add up to serious competition for Chandler or Wright. Better wait for the movie, or hope for more incisive plotting in the promised sequel. Read full book review >